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The Vesuvius Effect

Or why we wait to do anything despite all the warnings. A discussion of staying on top of things that impact our work...

By Karl Winkler April 20, 2017

An eruption of Vesuvius as seen from Portici, by Joseph Wright.

Way back in ’79… 79 AD that is, when some of our industry veterans were just getting started, Mt. Vesuvius erupted, completely destroying the Roman cities of Pompeii and Herculaneum and killing an estimated 16,000 people in the process.

No doubt you’ve read about this in history class or seen a documentary about it.

What you may not know is that Vesuvius had erupted several times before, including several larger ones such as in 1,800 BC where several bronze age settlements were wiped out. Minor eruptions happen every few decades or centuries and continue to this day. And yet, today an estimated 3 Million people live within the potential kill radius of this dangerous volcano, despite the fact that it will have a major eruption again someday.

How is this possible? I call it the Vesuvius Effect, or “It can’t Happy to Me.” It is part of our human nature, apparently.

Replacing Worn/Obsolete Equipment

I recently received a call from an integrator looking to find a way to continue using old software with old hardware. As he described it, “the hardware still works fine, but we can’t get the software to run any more.”

This was equipment we stopped making at Lectrosonics more than 10 years ago and had supported up until a few years ago when the whole 32/64 bit transition came around. After that, it became very daunting to continue support due to the USB driver problems and other software issues.

The only way to keep this particular customer’s gear running would be to keep an old PC around running an old OS. And we all know that just recently, Windows XP was dropped from support by Microsoft.

Even still, I felt for him and his customer because this has happened to all of us: perfectly good hardware becomes obsolete when it can no longer be updated, accessed, set up, controlled, or monitored.

What I couldn’t understand, though, was why they had not budgeted for hardware upgrades on a reasonable time frame. As we all know, most hardware today runs on software, and software requires fairly constant updating for minor issues. Then, every few years, a major update is required. As pointed out above, sometimes there is a major shift or external change that causes a whole class of devices to be rendered obsolete.

But even the hardware itself can be a ticking time bomb, just waiting for the worst possible moment to fail.

Take power amplifiers for example: the power capacitors inside only last so long. 10-12 years is a good rule of thumb for major overhauls or replacement. Sure, it might seem like a “power amp doesn’t have any moving parts and should last forever” but unfortunately this is not true.

And if common sense (otherwise known as the manufacturer’s recommended replacement schedule) is ignored then it just might go “poof” right in the middle of a church service, a presidential debate or a big rock show. Not something any of us would want. Although we might smile inwardly for the presidential debate one.

RF Spectrum

So let’s get to an issue that is near and dear, or at least near to our hearts: RF spectrum and wireless microphones.

Starting in the late 1990s, we all came to know that there would be a transition in TV broadcasts from analog to digital during the early 2000s. At the same time, some of the spectrum (the 700 MHz band) would be sold off in a series of auctions.

Through most of the decade between 2000 and 2010, there were numerous articles in the trade magazines, information on web sites and advice from manufacturers about which bands to avoid.


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About Karl

Karl Winkler
Karl Winkler

Vice President of Sales at Lectrosonics
 
Karl serves as vice president of sales/service at Lectrosonics and has worked in professional audio for more than 25 years.
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